The Map that Changed the World
My Father's Keeper
Monster Catfish and other southern comforts
Saturday 13 July 2002
The Map that Changed the World, by Simon Winchester (Penguin, Â£6.99, 338pp)
With a few exceptions, were the first earth scientists a bunch of swindlers? Deborah Cadbury's excellent Dinosaur Hunters revealed how pioneer palaeontologist Gideon Mantell was chiselled out of fame and fortune by Sir Richard Owen. It's much the same story here. William Smith, born the son of a blacksmith in 1769, single-handedly created the first geological map of Great Britain. ?Strata? Smith should have been revered as a giant of science, but his work was plagiarised by rivals, and he found himself in a debtors' prison. Brilliantly disinterred by Simon Winchester, this engaging yarn has a sort-of-happy ending.
My Father's Keeper, by Stephan Lebert (Abacus, Â£7.99, 244pp)
This odd book on the children of Nazi leaders contains much of interest, not least the photos. Gudrun Himmler insists: ?I look on it as my life's work to show my father to the world in a different light.? Her brother Martin regards his father severely, but admits: ?You never escape your parents, whoever they are.? The strongest material comes from interviews by Lebert's father in 1959. Forty years on, Stephan's reflections are of variable interest. It is hard, for example, to see the relevance of the fact that he listened to Dexter Gordon while reading Mein Kampf. Somewhere, an amazing book has been lost.
Moonshire, Monster Catfish and other southern comforts, by Burkhard Bilger (Arrow, Â£6.99, 272pp)
Following his acquisition of a coonhound, this Oklahoma-born New Yorker writer was prompted to explore America's exotic underbelly. With beginner's luck, he catches a 25lb catfish using the technique of ?noodling? or groping: ?I can't feel the fish because my arm is all the way down its throat.? Some Southern treats prove disappointing. The Kentucky snack of squirrels' brains is tainted by the threat of CJD. But one pastime is riding high. When a Tennessee marbles team took on the UK champs, they whupped us hollow.
Boo Hoo, by Ernst Malmsten (Arrow, Â£7.99, 406pp)
Disaster looms from the moment that the author, having sold an early Amazon surrogate, taps into a cashpoint: ?I had never seen so many zeros.? What could be a better move for Malmsten and his ex-model girlfriend than fashion on the net? At its peak, boo.com boasted an online magazine, animation and 3-D graphics. Malmsten partied with Depp, Moss, Gaultier ? Starting as an AbFab script, the book steadily transmutes into an FT insolvency report. The plug was pulled when losses reached $135m. Malmsten's dad offered solace: ?Think of it as a Harvard MBA.?
You won't learn much, but there are few more entertaining business histories.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Kermit the Frog has a new girlfriend named Denise
- 2 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 3 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 4 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 5 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The real reason Eddie Redmayne was cast as a trans woman in The Danish Girl
JK Rowling announces Harry Potter's son is starting at Hogwarts
Idris Elba is ‘too street’ to play 007, says James Bond author
Loose Women poll asking if rape is 'ever a woman's fault' sparks backlash
James Bond is a 'very lonely, sexist misogynist', says Daniel Craig
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be